In Mark 10:2 some Pharisees came up to Jesus to test Him, questioning whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.
Why would some Pharisees bring up the subject of divorce right at this point in time? Was Yeshua addressing issues of divorce at that particular moment? We don’t know. We do know however that they did not ask in order to learn from Him but instead, to trap Him.
The religious leaders had a sinister strategy. They knew that Yeshua was not in favor of divorce, so it is very possible that they expected Him to give a statement against divorce. This would serve to denounce Yeshua in front of another very important leader of the Jewish people – Herod the Tetrarch. Herod had John the Baptist killed for this very reason because John had spoken against Herod’s divorce and remarriage. John had accused Herod of having stolen his half – brother’s wife to marry her. The Pharisees wanted to see history repeated, instigating the Tetrach to now accuse Yeshua.
But prophecy had to take its course, meaning that the Messiah had to die through Roman crucifixion, just as David had prophesied. A few days later, Yeshua and Herod would meet but not for what these Pharisees had hoped. So the Pharisees did not succeed in their plot, but Yeshua took the occasion to bring out their guilt. They were responsible for the great division between Israel and God. The very religious institution that was to help the people draw close to God had separated them and even divorced many from the Almighty who was right there, incarnate, in front of them. The action of the Pharisees is one example of the many instances within other religious institutions which have done similar damage to the people.
Jesus does speak of marriage and divorce, but what He is about to say is not a discourse on this subject. There is not that much given in this section of Mark to formulate laws about the issues of divorce. In fact, when it comes to divorce, and bringing all the regulations together, it is one of the most complicated matters to deal with. Usually, divorce cases are very unique and need detailed attention, extensive prayer and consideration before rendering a verdict.
The information chosen by Yeshua in Mark seems to point to the religious leaders as those responsible for the great divide between man and God.
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Note how Yeshua begins to answer their objections. The first thing He does is lead them back to the Word of God. His first answer is found in v.3.
And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
In Matthew He says, “Have you not read what Moses said?” So the first thing to do is to find out what God says in the Scriptures. It is the safest approach. Before He expounds on His answer, the Pharisees chose to question Yeshua about only one point, which was an unfair and limited approach. It reflected their legalism. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” That was true, but was that all? What about God who said that He hates divorce? How do you put the two together? How is it that on the one hand God allowed divorce and the other, He is grieved when a divorce occurs?
Yeshua answered their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures by pronouncing the following powerful words, giving the reason for the certificate of divorce.
“Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.“ Mark 10:5
The law of divorce was formulated because of the unbelief of men who then abused women and children. Hardness of heart is one word in the Greek, used later in Mark to describe one’s unbelief (16:14). The Law regulated and appeased some but also made it very difficult for them to divorce. At that time and still in some cases today, when a man divorces his wife, the woman is left without any resources. She would be thrown in the streets by herself and often with her children. The law of divorce was created to protect her. God created marriage, but man created divorce that God had then to regulate.
God as the Husband
Yeshua brings them further into the Scriptures, back to the time when God created marriage. By going to the roots, Yeshua not only enhances the importance of marriage, but He goes further in order to emphasize the standing of every believer before God. The Bible speaks of God as a husband, the husband of Israel. Yeshua is the promised husband of every believer.
But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9
This statement goes far beyond the marriage of a man and woman and takes us to the second reason why Yeshua brought up these passages, which has to do with a much greater divorce. It was the one which was about to take place when the Messiah was to be delivered to be killed and would affect every single soul.
The man who separates in v.9 can be understood as the religious leaders themselves. They were the ones responsible for recognizing when the Messiah of Israel came. It is something they failed to do, which caused the division between man and God.
The Real Agents of Divorce
So, we can see the man as being not only the Jewish religious leaders of the time, but all religious leaders who pull people away from God through their self-imposed traditions and precepts. The wife is not only Israel, but all members of the humanity who God created in His image.
I am not suggesting that God divorced Israel. He never did and will never do it, for His union with Israel is based on an unconditional covenant, based on the preservation of the remnant. However, we have seen how God forsook many people within this nation who did not follow His precepts. That explains why the number of Jews is only a fraction of what they are supposed to be. There are only 15 million Jews today, yet not all of them are of the Remnant of Israel. The Remnant of Israel is within the 15 million.
The word rasav, forsaken, is used in the important book of Hosea which describes the marriage of God with Israel and His forsaking of those who refuse Him. Hosea 4:10 sums up the dilemma. They will eat, but not have enough; They will play the harlot, but not increase, Because they have forsaken (rasav) giving heed to the LORD. This verse is really addressed to the priesthood, the religious leaders at the time, who can be seen as the man who separated the rest of the nation from God.
The last words they have deserted Yahweh is the same way they have deserted Yeshua.
So while this talk about divorce does not give much information about the specifics concerning divorce between men and women in general, it does point to the great divide that was about to occur when they would reject the Messiah of Israel.